Soil is the heart of every farmer’s or gardener’s business, except if you are using hydroponic system in farming. A good soil is the secret to healthy crops and the more you know your soil, the better. Beneath our feet, are the organic matters that feed us. These organic maters are worms, good bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that work together to help crops thrive. Disturbing our soils or if we are not protecting them, these natural soil builders will have difficulty to become productive. Building rich, diverse, and healthy soil ecosystems is a critical life-giving farming practice. Luckily, caring for soil is one of the most effective time-tested ways farmers can increase crop yields while protecting our natural resources.
Here are four (4) guides that farmer’s must know in managing their soils:
1. Determine your soil. There are three types of soils, these are the following:
Clay is a soil that is composed of mostly clay particles. If you soil sticks to your shoes and garden tools like glue, forms big clods that are not easy to separate, and crusts over and cracks in dry weather, you have clay. Clay holds more water and not suitable to other plants except for Fern, Aster and some other flowering plants. You cannot plant your vegetable crops in a clay soil.
Loam. This is the most ideal plant-growing medium because sand, silt, and clay together provide desirable characteristics. It generally contains more nutrients, moisture, and humus. It also have better drainage and infiltration of water and air.
Sand. It is a granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral practices. In contrast with clay, sands don’t hold any water and plants will not survive without water. Some plants thrive in a sandy soil such as succulents like cacti, sedum, lavender or euphorbia species.
2. Soil Testing
Why do we need to test our soil? We are testing our soil to determine what nutrients are lacking in our soil.
So, how will you test your soil? You can go to the Department of Agriculture in your respective country to seek their assistance in testing your soil. In the Philippines, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management are doing soil analysis. In the Ilocos Region, you may go to DA Region 1 . In India, you can go to the Farmers’ Portal for soil testing.
3. Nutrients Needed on your Soil
What are the nutrients needed on your soil? It depends on the crop you want to grow. Different crops have different needs. So, you need to know the nutrient needs of the crops you intend to grow.
The following soil nutrients should be present in your soil:
- Manganese and Zinc
4. Cover Crops
Cover Crops are planted in the farm to keep nutrients in the soil and improve soil health, and prepare the soil for the next planting rather than depleting it. Usually, they are not harvested because they deliver natural fertilizer to the soil, prevent erosion, and increase biodiversity. Their roots also create pores in the soil for better water infiltration.